California to ban facial recognition software in police body cams?

We’ve already covered numerous stories about cities in California passing legislation designed to ban the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement. Apparently it’s too easy to catch criminals these days or something. But this mostly applied to cameras placed out on the streets, such as red light cameras. Now the entire state is preparing for a different sort of ban. They want to forbid the police from employing any sort of software that would apply facial recognition technology to footage captured by police body cameras. (CBS San Francisco)

California is poised to ban the use of facial recognition technology in police body cameras for three years after votes by the state legislature this week.

AB 1215 passed the state Senate 22-15 on Wednesday and the state Assembly 47-21 on Thursday. It has been sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing.

Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill, citing inaccurate identification and apparent racial biases in the current state of the technology.

This level of paranoia about law enforcement officers is simply off the hook. The bill’s author, Assemblymember Phil Ting, made his intentions pretty clear when he released a statement in support of the measure. He’s quoted as saying, “Let’s not become a police state and keep body cameras as they were originally intended — to provide police accountability and transparency.”

In Ting’s opinion, the only use for police body cameras is to catch officers who are breaking the rules. That’s certainly one benefit to using them because we unfortunately do turn up the occasional bad apple among the police. But the footage captured by body cameras is also useful in identifying suspects who escape and as evidence at trial.

Ting went on to further demonstrate his lack of understanding by saying “Without my bill, facial recognition technology essentially turns body cameras into a 24-hour surveillance tool, giving law enforcement the ability to track our every movement.”

Can someone please pass the news to the assemblymember that police body cameras are physically attached to the officer’s body? (Hence the name.) The only way that body cameras could be used to “track your every movement” would be if the officer was physically following you around everywhere you go. And in that case, they would already literally be tracking your every movement without the need of a camera.

I understand the valid concerns some people have over facial recognition software because some of it is still quite error-prone. But I’ve yet to see one documented instance where a person was incorrectly identified by the software and then went on to be tried for a crime they didn’t commit. The results are always looked at by a human being who can quickly figure out that the technology screwed up. This should be doubly true in the case of body cams because the human officer is seeing the same thing the camera is recording in real-time.

California continues to attempt to make the jobs of police officers more difficult while doing nothing to benefit the citizens being served. This is a sad state of affairs.